Sunday was a fun day for IBL fans, as three playoff games took place across the province. The Toronto Maple Leafs would win a tight 4-3 game over the Brantford Red Sox to take a 2-1 series lead, while Hamilton and Kitchener would combined for 40 runs in a 21-19 Cardinals victory to give them their first win over the Panthers in what is also now a 2-1 series. For the London Majors and Burlington Herd however, they would be playing Game #4 in the fifth night of their best of seven series, with London going in with the 2-1 advantage. Burlington was looking to continue their momentum from the 9-5 Game #3 victory on the road at Labatt Memorial Park, now back at Nelson Park after a day to rest up with a 5:30pm first pitch. Home field advantage didn’t mean much in Game #2, as the Majors would score 14 runs, beating the Herd by 10 in their last appearance at Nelson Park. London scored early and often in that game, leading 6-0 after 3 innings and putting up a 5 run 5th inning to solidify the win behind the efforts of pitcher Cory Hammond.
Burlington would lean on Midland, Ontario native Ryan Beckett to limit the Majors offence after posting a 1-4 record with a 11.40ERA in 30 innings pitched during the regular season. The 6’4 right-hander would have his hands full right out of the gate with London’s first two hitters in Chris McQueen and Carlos Arteaga. The two sluggers would smack back to back doubles to make it 1-0 for the visitors before the first out of the ballgame was recorded. With 2 outs, a LeJon Baker RBI single, followed by a Kyle Gormandy RBI double would make it 3-0 before the home team could get to the batter’s box. London would send out the former Vaughan Viking Chris Boatto to the hill, hoping the righty could give them a quality start on the road after posting a 1-1 record with a 8.13ERA in 24.1 innings of work in the regular season. Chris’s third pitch of the game would be taking for a ride by Herd leadoff hitter Justin Gideon over the fence for a solo-homerun to make it a 3-1 game. It was the first homerun of the postseason for the Pickering, Ontario outfielder who led Burlington during the regular season in almost every offensive category: .435 batting average, 60 hits, 13 double, 18 stolen bases, 8 homeruns and 27 RBI. Boatto would settle in right after, sitting down the next three Herd hitters; O’Farrell, Whaley and Schmidt to end the first inning.
The three runs generated in the 1stinning would be all the Majors needed on Sunday night in Burlington to put themselves in line for a victory however London would end up tacking on another 12 runs before the game concluded. Bryon Reichstein led London in RBIs during the regular season with 33 and had a team high 6 homeruns; he would blast the first pitch he saw in the top of the 2nd inning for a two-run homerun. Two batters later the Lake Michigan College product Michael Ambrose would take a full-count pitch out of the park for a solo-homerun, capping off a four run inning for London, making the score 7-1 and ending Ryan Beckett’s night. Beckett would be tagged with the unflattering pitching line of: 1.2IP, 7H, 7R, 5ER, 1BB, 1K on 14 batters faced, replaced by right-hander Alex Nolan to conclude the 2nd inning. Chris McQueen would rip an RBI single cashing in Kyle Gormandy to make it 8-1 in the 3rd and later a Keith Kandel sacrifice-fly would bring in Robert Doyle to make it 9-1 in the 5th. The Brock Badger in Alex Nolan would do well all things considering up until the 6th inning, where the London bats would push across four more runs. Both Bryon Reichstein and Kyle Gormandy would connect for two-run homeruns to make it 13-1 before Burlington batted in the bottom of the 6th. After walking the first batter in John Whaley to start the bottom of the 7th, Chris Boatto was replaced by Braeden Ferrington. Boatto gave the Majors the quality road start they were looking for, finishing the night with the pitching line: 6+IP, 1H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 2K while facing 21 batters on the night. Whaley would eventually come around to score while the Majors turned a 4-3 double-play to make it 13-2 after 7 innings of play. London would quickly respond by smashing it’s fifth homerun of the ballgame and their fourth two-run homerun of the night to make it 15-2. This time Michael Ambrose didn’t need a full-count, he took the very first pitch over the fence for his second long-bomb of the evening. After two innings of work from Ferrington, the Windsor, Ontario native Mike DeLong would pitch a 1-2-3 bottom 9 to mercifully end the night for Burlington.
Funny to think a team that’s put up 6 runs at home in two games, has pumped out 29 runs in two road contests, but that’s the 2017 postseason for the London Majors so far after the 15-2 win. They now take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Burlington Herd and will get a day of rest before having a chance to advance to the next round on Tuesday night. Still with an average of 1.6 runs per inning at Nelson Park, maybe Burlington’s best chance is to play in London where the Majors are averaging less than 1 run per every three innings of offense. One would only assume though that the Majors will be going in for the kill in Game #5 back at home, expect Game #1 starter Luis Sanchez (who threw a complete game shutout) to take to the mound at 7:15pm Tuesday night. Also expect Burlington’s Game #1 starter in Christian Hauck to face off against Sanchez one more time, as the Orangeville, Ontario natives team faces elimination from the IBL playoffs.